to being an antique dealer with a special affinity for vintage fabrics, I have
found that the absolutely best cleaner for washable fabrics is the product
Oxiclean, widely available (with the large tubs frequently on sale at
Costco.) On whites, it is far better –
and safer – than bleach because no cleaning product residue remains in the
fabric. Here are some very special instructions that will insure the best possible
outcome for your cleaning project.
First of all,
make sure that the item in question is washable. Many, many fabrics are,
but some may be susceptible to shrinkage, particularly considering the hot
temperatures I am going to recommend. If the item seems to be ruined anyway, you
have nothing to lose by trying this.
Find a container
with a lid that is large enough to soak your item. It could be a large soup
pot, your older-model washing machine that actually can be filled with water,
or even a camping cooler (more on this innovation later.) It should be large enough to allow some space
around the item being cleaned, so that the solution can easily and evenly
penetrate the fabric.
container with either the very hottest tap water you have, or with boiling
water. Oxiclean works best with HOT water.
suitable amount of Oxiclean in the water, stirring it thoroughly so that
there is no particulate matter. Use a metal cooking spoon or some other utensil
that can be washed afterwards. Sometimes I use a brush with a handle. Stir well.
Set the container out of the way, because it’s going to be there for awhile.
item to be cleaned to the HOT Oxiclean solution, stir it around (gently if
it is an antique fabric) and even pull it up and push it down in the water in a
gentle agitating movement.
lid on the container and walk away. Every now and then return to gently
swish the item around, but always replace the lid when you’re done.
Let it sit
there for 24 hours. Really!
hours, remove the item from the soaking bath and rinse it thoroughly. If the stains in question are still there,
you may opt to repeat the whole process, or you could decide to follow-up with
conventional washing. Be sure to rinse the item thoroughly (particularly if it
is antique) and allow it to line dry unless you’re sure it won’t shrink
sure you’re going to be pleasantly surprised….if not amazed!
favorite stories about particular successes are these. One of my garage sale
buddies had a grimy and disgusting olive green canvas bag from World War 1 in
which he stored gun-cleaning items. His wife wouldn’t let him use any of her
pots or the bathtub, so he’s the one that came up with the brilliant idea to
use his camping cooler. He followed all my instructions, and 24 hours later the
bag came out of the soak looking nearly brand new, with all the pen writing of
the soldier’s name cleaned off, along with years of grunge. The second surprise success was when I was
visiting my niece and she sheepishly showed me that an outfit I had made for
her young daughter had been spoiled with a black marker line. I didn’t think
Oxiclean would get it out, but after the same process I outlined, the shirt
came back perfectly clean, and the outfit was salvaged.